Joseph Robertson (pastor)

For the Church of England clergyman and writer, see Joseph Robertson (clergyman).

Joseph Robertson MA (24 February 1849 – 7 August 1921) was an Australian Congregationalist minister.


Robertson, a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson, was born in London to William Robertson (c. 1814 – 6 May 1891), who was a follower of Dr. Thomas Chalmers during the Church of Scotland schism, and his wife Jane Stevenson Robertson ( – 13 October 1892). William became a Congregationalist under the influence of Rev. Samuel Martin, who baptised the young Joseph.[1] They emigrated Australia, and settled in Ipswich, Queensland, before moving to Camdenville, New South Wales, where William was employed as a timber merchant, and Joseph was educated. He worked for the Panama, New Zealand and Australian Mail Company for five years, then was influenced by the missionary James Chalmers to prepare for missionary work. He began night studies at the Sydney School of Arts, winning prizes in English, Latin and Greek. He then studied privately for a year under Rev. B. Quaife, then entered Camden College, where he studied theology under Rev. S. C. Kent and Rev. Dr. Fraser[2] in conjunction with his course at Sydney University, where he was captain of the Rugby Football Club.[3] He graduated BA in 1873, and was offered the pastorate of the Augustine Congregational Church, Hawthorn, Victoria,[4] where he served for three years from 1872 to 1875. He completed his MA in 1877

He served at of the Beresford Street Congregational Church, Auckland from 1877[1] to January 1886, and oversaw its rapid expansion, with the establishment of Mount Eden and three other branch churches.[3] While there he helped found the Congregational Union of New Zealand in 1884, and was its first chairman.

He was minister of the church in Petersham, New South Wales from December 1886 to June 1890, during which time the church was enlarged and a fine organ installed.[5]

He was called to take charge of Stow Memorial Church, Adelaide during the absence of W. Roby Fletcher, who had resigned for travel purposes, and commenced at Stow in August, 1890, Rev. D. W. Simon D.D. (invariably referred to as "Principal Simon") having filled in for the interim.[6] He was chairman of the Congregational Union in the year 1894-5. Among his achievements was placing the church on a firm financial footing, with a modest surplus where there had been a substantial mortgage of £4,000 and overdraft of £500.[7] He left Stow in 1904 to take charge of Clayton Congregational Church, Adelaide's other major Congregational chapel. He left Clayton Church in February 1909, again with the proud record of seeing church debt wiped out, and membership and attendance of both church and Sunday-school at an all-time high, and a good attendance at mid-week services.[7] While in Adelaide he was an active supporter of the Y.M.C.A., O.B.I. and Christian Endeavour, the Missionary Training Home, the Anti-Gambling League, and the Deaf and Dumb Institution.

His next call was to the Central Congregational Church in Ipswich, Queensland, a church with twelve branches and four assistant ministers,[3] where Rev. W. J. L. Closs BA. had served from 1899 to 1908. Attendances were low for some time, then picked up around 1912. When The Great War broke out many men from Ipswich volunteered, and some did not return, including one of Robertson's sons, killed at Gallipoli. Robertson resigned in April 1916[8] and retired from Ipswich in July 1916, and was replaced by F. V. Dowling MA.

He accepted a temporary charge of the Campbell Memorial Church at Roseville, New South Wales where he served from September 1916, followed by Randwick and Redfern churches. He died at Strathfield, New South Wales.

He was described in 1953 as

"A man of sound scholarship, of Old World dignity and a good simple preacher (who) went about his work steadily ... Mr. and Mrs. Robertson were a tower of strength, and themselves knew the fellowship of loss and suffering."[8]


Joseph Robertson married Catherine Ross Wilson (c. 1854 – 10 April 1939), adopted daughter of Rev. S. C. Kemt, Principal of Camden College,[3] on 6 January 1875. Their children included:

Their home for many years was at 49 Redunyre Road, Strathfield, New South Wales. His brother James Robertson married Mary Jane Steel, eldest daughter of Rev. Robert Steel D.D., M.A., PhD. (c. 1844–1893) on 18 April 1880, a double wedding. His sister Margaret Jane Cameron Robertson married Captain James Watt, of the ship Halloween on 9 July 1874.


  1. 1 2 "Rev. Joseph Robertson, M.A.". The Pictorial Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1885 - 1895). 1 June 1892. p. 87. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  2. "Ears of Corn". Christian Colonist. XII, (22). South Australia. 7 March 1890. p. 2. Retrieved 4 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Death of the Rev. Joseph Robertson". The Sydney Morning Herald (26,081). New South Wales, Australia. 8 August 1921. p. 10. Retrieved 5 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "Concerning People". The Register (Adelaide). LXXXVI, (25,323). South Australia. 9 August 1921. p. 8. Retrieved 4 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  5. "Churches and Church Affairs". The Register (Adelaide). LXXXVIII, (25,707). South Australia. 19 May 1923. p. 14. Retrieved 4 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "Departure of the Rev. Principal Simon D.D.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900). 21 August 1890. p. 4. Retrieved 4 Oct 2016. Principal D. W. Simon, D.D., of Spring Hill College, Birmingham, was a noted Congregationalist theologian.
  7. 1 2 "Clayton Congregational Church". The Register (Adelaide). LXXIV, (19,422). 11 February 1909. p. 6. Retrieved 4 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  8. 1 2 The story of the years : Central Congregational Church Ipswich, Qld., 1853–1953 published by Centenary Committee, Ipswich Central Congregational Church, available on-line
  9. "The AIF Project: Harold Ross Robertson". University of NSW. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  10. "Mr. Harold Ross Robertson". Queensland Times. LVII, (9554). Queensland, Australia. 30 May 1916. p. 6. Retrieved 5 October 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "Out among the People". The Chronicle (Adelaide). 20 October 1932. p. 63. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  12. "The AIF Project: Theodore Gordon Robertson". University of NSW. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  13. "The AIF Project: Sydney Beresford Robertson". University of NSW. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
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